infinity on repeat

"It is the imagination pressing back against the pressure of reality. It seems, in the last analysis, to have something to do with our self-preservation; and that, no doubt, is why the expression of it, the sound of its words, helps us to live our lives.”

Tag: Cancun

hola, wtf r u doing here?

I spent most of my flight to Cancun reading about this Cohen guy’s categories of tourists… and a lot of literature on tourism is super critical of tourists, especially of mass tourists… Who are the types to stay in big resorts. So as I finished my reading, they were finally getting to the back of the plane with drinks. I asked for coffee, but then the older couple next to me ordered bloody marys and I realized that was a much better idea… So we had our bloody marys and began talking. They were en route to Cancun because they won an all‐expense paid vacation. They’d be staying in an all‐inclusive resort and doing the whole retired‐n‐chillin thing, but they’d been to Cancun several times before. I asked if they’d ever traveled outside of Cancun or gone anywhere else in Mexico, and they said no. They were about my parents’ age, which seems to be the lead generation of mass tourism. My generation seems to lean towards the whole staying‐in‐a‐hostel‐gives‐me‐the‐right‐to‐bitch‐about‐tourism‐even‐though‐I’m‐still‐sort‐of‐being‐a‐tourist thing.

So………. we didn’t stay in Cancun (gracias a dios), but drove about 45 minutes out of the city to Puerto Morelos. It is a tiny town, and obviously a port town, so there is a really interesting mix of people. Most of the stores and restaurants seemed to be geared toward tourism, but we saw very few tourists or foreigners. When we would get into a conversation with someone, we always heard the same thing—we were the first Mississippians anyone had ever seen here, and not many tourists from the states come here at all. Most are from Germany or France. Some from California. I did meet a family from California one night, and they were really wonderful. They were definitely not of the mass tourist persuasion…. more of the Woodstock persuasion.  Jeje 😉

Mexico in travel websites

     Yucatan Today entices visually, with bright colors, graphics, and photographs.. The site uses banner advertisements of spas, hotels, and the like. It seems to be geared toward prospective ex‐pats, or at least the demographic. The menu options are topics, destinations, eventsaccommodations, restaurants, and real estate. Even the order in which these options are listed creates a sort of narrative… A person who is English speaking and wealthy enough to vacation goes to the Yucatan, verses his or herself in the topics relevant to that region, visits beautiful historical sites while dining out and staying in nice hotels, and eventually decides to look for real estate in the are and move. The site seems to be assimilating parts of Mexican and Yucatecan culture into a product that will appeal to a certain audience. The advertised sites and media feed into a lot of the hype surrounding the Mayan calendar predictions for 2012.  They seem to feed whatever audience they think will come. I wonder who runs this site, honestly.

Cancun Information is the official site for tourism in Cancun. This site looks more like Yucatan Today, and it is even more geared toward luxury seeking masses. Instead of advertising Haciendas like the Yucatan Today site, this lists all-inclusive resorts—which are HORRIBLE for the local economy. There is no attempt to sell Mexican culture here… Nothing reflects, informs, or depicts anything about the culture. There are photos of white skinned, blonde haired models lounging in the bright blue ocean. The list of dining options includes Italian, Oriental, Fine Dining, and steakhouses.. with Mexican food as a mere item on the list. You’ll start to notice that I absolutely detest Cancun…..

The U.S. Department of State’s travel website offers a completely opposite  presentation of Mexico. There are no colorful graphics or advertisements, and all of the information is organized by a very streamlined and straightforward design. Rather than listing destinations and tourist hotpots like the Yucatan Today, these are the topics on the menuː

  • Country Description
  • Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)/Embassy Location
  • Entry/Exit Requirements for U.S. Citizens
  • Threats to Safety and Security
  • Crime
  • Victims of Crime
  • Criminal Penalties
  • Special Circumstances
  • Medical Facilities and Health Information
  • Medical Insurance
  • Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
  • Aviation Safety Oversight
  • Children’s Issues

The narrative is very clear here… Go to Mexico, be prepared for danger. Of course, part of this reflects the way the entire website is structured, but these are the very concerns that circulate among Americans about travelling to Mexico. There is nothing about culture, food, or really anything positive.

a travel guide is a tourist’s bible

Before I left, I looked at media representing Mexico–especially media directed toward foreigners and/or tourists. These are some travel books I found, and I think each depicts a specific type of “tourist gaze”…

1. Mexico Chic This travel book represents the luxury gaze. Like Ury and Larsen theorize, the tourists’ gaze depends on his or her own sociocultural ‘centre’–their culture, language, beliefs, daily routine & practices, economic, racial, and social status. This book caters to the contemporary American fashionable female. The implied reader’s lifestyle is heavily influenced by visual and sensual pleasure. The book presents Mexico as an oasis that is isolated from a daily routine of work, offices, and suburban/urban landscapes. It entices via large, colorful photographs of hacienda suites, resorts, spas, and fine dining– all with an “authentic” Mexican flair. Tag-lined with the phrased “you can’t get it at home”, the tourist is lured into an ideal of escapism. Mexico is only partially depicted, as a place void of actual people with actual jobs and actual lives, etc.

2. Graham Greene‘s Another Mexico

PalenqueThis book offers an historical viewpoint of Mexico: a mix of travel writing, social critique, and religious protest written in the 1930’s. After converting to Catholicism, Greene traveled to Mexico and explored the religious landscape. He described Catholics as a suppressed people, ignoring the history of Spanish colonialism and imperialism. Mayan culture was significantly changed by the infiltration of Catholic Spaniards, prompting Mayan religion to take on aspects of Christianity. This syncratic practice is a key notion in the study of Mexican culture.

3. An Archaeological Guide to Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula, by Kelly Joyce

This book approaches tourism through a scholar’s lens, offering the tourist a how-to guide on a more academically grounded, therefore ‘authentic’, experience. The book emphasizes visually compelling aspects of the Yucatan as an anthropological and archaeological field, and invites the reader into an insider perspective on Mexican culture. Tourism scholars could criticise this book for perpetuating staged authenticity, as the sites listed are all run somewhat like cultural theme parks. The scholarly authority imparted by the voice in the book seems verified and objective, which could be dangerous for a tourist audience.

4. Lonely Planet: Cancun, Cozumel, and Yucatan

 

This is what I would consider a “classic” travel guide. Lonely Planet produces hundreds of guides for destinations all over the globe. The information is a survey of the Peninsula’s hotels, restaurants, museums, beaches, and cultural sites. The design has a visual and photographic emphasis, once again, with historical/cultural information in captions. The book is a self-described authority on “how to get there and get away”, and the place is presented as exotic, foreign, and other-worldly. The American tourist is instructed to see difference primarily, and there is not much about the people who inhabit Mexico today–perpetuating voyeuristic pleasure.